Sunday, 1 July 2012
The Final “Coxon” Years
The following year, and the band released their first greatest hits set, “Blur: The Best Of”. This was a selective, non-chronological trawl through the singles, noticeably ignoring “Popscene”. The accompanying DVD was much better, as it ran in order and was pretty much the real deal as far as the promo videos went. Initial copies of the CD came with a free 10-track live CD featuring highlights of one of the “Singles” shows, from Wembley Arena. Although less than half the gig was included, the songs did still at least appear in the right order.
The Audio edition included a few of the single edits of some of the singles, as well as the extended mix of “For Tomorrow”, along with a new song at the very end, “Music is My Radar”. This was issued as a single a fortnight before the album, and was released on a variety of formats with new B-sides. Some of these b-sides were old BBC Sessions, the most impressive of which was the recording of “Seven Days”, a track which never made it onto a Blur studio record, and seems to be one of the “lost” songs from the abandoned second album sessions that took place in 1992. The version that appeared on this single was taped for the Evening Session the same year.
By now, the time between albums was starting to increase, and it was not until the tail end of 2001 that the band began tentative work on what would eventually become 2003’s “Think Tank”, a situation caused in part by side projects by the likes of Damon Albarn and Graham Coxon. Early on during the sessions, rumours began to circulate that Coxon had had a falling out with the rest of the band, and the rumours were true, with Coxon officially announcing his departure in 2002. Only a handful of songs were completed before his departure, and the three officially released at the time were used as b-sides on later singles “Crazy Beat” (“The Outsider”) and “Good Song” (“Morricone“), with the third one being the album closer, “Battery In Your Leg”. Albarn ended up playing all the guitar parts on everything else. The fourth song featuring Coxon that was completed, “Some Glad Morning”, would later be released as a fan club single.
Before the release of the album, the band released a hyper limited 7”, housed in a rather anonymous sleeve which didn’t even mention the band’s name (nor did the labels), titled “Don’t Bomb When You Are The Bomb”. Only a thousand copies were pressed, and the song was not included on “Think Tank”, making it one of the more obscure items in the band’s cannon. The first single from “Think Tank” was “Out Of Time”, issued in far greater numbers the following year on a variety of formats, including a DVD edition.
“Think Tank” was released in May 2003. Initial copies sold in the UK through the HMV chain came in a special “first day edition” cover (CD, Food BLUR HMV 01) - basically, a card insert with an alternative image to the normal cover was tucked into the front of the casing, in front of the normal CD booklet. I seem to recall that copies were actually still on sale the day after release, but a quick trawl of the internet shows - as I type this - none for sale on eBay, and nothing when you look at Google Images, so copies still with this insert could be worth a small fortune. The more well known “limited” version was the enhanced CD edition (CD, Food 582 9970) which came in a special red digipack sleeve, and included a series of bonus video performances on the CD-Rom element of the disc.
Now officially a trio, Blur toured the album with a guest guitarist, The Verve’s Simon Tong (although The Verve had actually split up by this time). The tour mostly saw the band avoiding - where possible - the arenas, and the final show took place on 12th December 2003 at the BIC in Bournemouth. Although there was talk in 2004 of more new material, nothing emerged, and the band seemed to go into a state of semi-hibernation. The band’s fan club folded in 2005, with a final fan club single, the aforementioned “Some Glad Morning”, appearing that December. Subsequent interviews with the band veered between “we are recording again” and “we have split up”, and by the end of 2008, there was still no new material and no more shows.
A number of releases documenting the tour surfaced in 2009/2010. There were a couple of “mail order only” CD releases on the Live Here Now label, both titled “All The People”, housed in different sleeves, but with one release covering the first Hyde Park show, and the other the second. Copies of both are quite easily available still, and seem to be sold by a number of online outlets in numerous countries. A documentary DVD, “No Distance Left To Run”, issued in 2010, included a film of the first Hyde Park as a bonus disc.
Potentially the most interesting release of all was the freebie album “Live 2009”, given free with the Sunday Times newspaper for one day only on 22nd November. Not only did this feature the famous “blur” logo on the cover, which was absent from the covers of both the “All The People” releases, but it included live performances from a number of shows on the June tour - eight in total - plus one song each from the two Hyde Park gigs.
After the final show that summer, a truncated T In The Park festival performance on 12th July, the band seemed to suggest it was all over again. They then seemed to go back on their word by releasing a 1-sided limited 7” of a new recording, “Fools Day”, for the 2010 Record Store Day event, before once again disappearing amidst rumours of this being the end. Or maybe not. At the tail end of 2011, it was announced that the band were to be the recipients of a Brits Lifetime achievement award, meaning a mini live gig would be on the cards. On the 19th February this year, Albarn and Coxon performed a three song show at the annual pre-Brits War child charity gig in London, where they played a new song called “Under The Westway” (to be issued as a 7“ in August), before the Brits show itself. Other gigs are lined up for the summer, including an Olympics Closing ceremony show in London, where the band will be joined by The Specials and New Order, two bands who have influenced the group quite heavily, but haven’t shifted as many units, and hence are appearing as the support bands instead.
Already, some members of the band have been stating that “Under The Westway” is a one off, and that there are no plans for a new album, meaning that - studio wise - 1999’s “13” would remain the final album to feature the whole band for a whole album, which is quite strange when you think about it. We shall wait and see.
For the singles, I have listed the CD editions for most releases, as these usually - track listings wise - are the format of choice. It’s worth pointing out that some other formats might exist with identical track listings, but I have excluded these for clarity’s sake. However, where another format offers everything from a CD and more, this is listed instead. Coloured vinyl 7” singles are also listed, although it is worth pointing out that only “Sunday Sunday” has a b-side that, ignoring for a moment the “10 Yr” boxset, is unavailable anywhere else. Where another non-CD format includes material that is rare or exclusive, one such format will be listed, usually a vinyl edition. Singles in alternate covers with no exclusive material are not listed, although details of many of these can be found in the August 2011 article.
The band are also on the verge of issuing a box set, which - if you have £120 - is a nifty looking thing, and includes within it, reissues of the band’s studio albums as double disc sets. The second disc, in many instances, include nothing more than B-sides from the list you see below, but these are being offered for sale individually at less than a tenner, so may be the best starting point if you don’t own a particular LP. The albums list below is split into the forthcoming studio album reissues, and a second list of odds and sods.
ALBUMS - 2012 REISSUES
Leisure (2xCD, Food FOODCDX 6)
Modern Life Is Rubbish (2xCD, Food FOODCDX 9)
Parklife (2xCD, Food FOODCDX 10, includes previously unissued BBC Sessions material on CD2)
The Great Escape (2xCD, Food FOODCDX 14, includes “Eine Kleine Lift Musik” from the “Help” compilation and b-sides from Japanese only “It Could Be You“ single)
Blur (2xCD, Food FOODCDX 19, includes some of the “Live In Utrecht” Dutch EP material)
13 (2xCD, Food FOODCDX 29, includes “I Got Law” from the Japanese edition)
Think Tank (2xCD, Food THINKX1, includes live material from an XFM 2003 session, previously unavailable)
It’s worth going into some detail about what is being stuck on the bonus discs, apart from the B-sides, as some of them are throwing in a few rarities that may be of interest. Some fan club single material is appearing, although only where the relevant song has never appeared elsewhere in any other form, so a number of FC singles that included “alternative“ mixes of existing Blur songs are absent from the reissues. More details below.
The ‘second’ “French” version of “To The End”, with Francoise Hardy, is usually known as “To The End (La Comedie)”. It appeared as a B-side in the UK, and is appearing on the reissued “The Great Escape”, but when this mix of the track appeared as a single in Europe (CD, Food 7243 8 82177 2 9), an instrumental mix appeared on the flip, but this version is not on the reissue. The aforementioned “It Could Be You” single (CD, Food TOCP 8908) appeared as a 4-track CD in Japan, and was used to plug both “The Great Escape” and the 1996 live album “Live At The Budokan” - a version from each of these releases appeared on the single.
The reissue of “Blur” includes a soundtrack contribution, “Cowboy Song”, and the so-called 7” mix of “Death Of A Party” - issued as a promo only, but since included on various releases including the recent-ish “Midlife” Best-of. When first issued in 1997, “Blur” got a late summer “Tour Edition” 2-CD re-release, with the second CD including a six track live EP, taped in Utrecht. Some, but not all, of these songs are being tagged onto the reissue. The EP was also sold individually at the time in some territories, and came in a sleeve identical to the album (CD, Food 7243 8 21215 2 7). Also included are the “Live In Germany” b-sides that appeared on a special Dutch version of the “MOR” single in late 97 (CD, Food 7243 8 84710 2 2), the first time these have been made available in the UK.
“13” when first issued came in a fancy numbered white box with a special CD-Rom element (CD, Food FOODCDS 29), but the reissue - of course - opts for a totally different approach. Housed in it’s normal ‘Coxon Painting’ sleeve, it offers a few nice bits and bobs, but not much that is ultra rare. “Music Is My Radar”, originally from the “Best Of” set, is being tagged on, along with one of it’s B-sides, “Black Book”. The reissued “Think Tank” opts for some previously unreleased Radio Session material, plus some rarities previously available on a newspaper freebie CD. These two reissues are both of note, as they also include B-sides from the period that are making their first appearance since their original release.
The Special Collectors Edition (Japanese CD, Food TOCP 8395, selective B-sides collection)
Live At The Budokan (2xCD, Food FOODCD 17, originally Japanese only but repressing issued via fan club without obi and new UK catalogue number)
Bustin’ & Dronin’ (Japanese 2xCD, Food TOCP 50444-5, come copies exported to UK have additional barcode stuck onto rear of shrinkwrap, remixes on CD1 and “Peel Acres“ B-sides on CD2)
Blur: The Best Of (2xCD, Food FOODCDS 33, later pressings/2012 reissue do not come in slipcase and are restricted to single disc of material only)
Midlife: A Beginner’s Guide To Blur (2xCD, Parlophone 50999 966307 2 3)
All The People Blur Live At Hyde Park 02 July 2009 (2xCD, Parlophone/Live Here Now CDLHN 57)
All The People Blur Live At Hyde Park 03 July 2009 (2xCD, Parlophone/Live Here Now CDLHN 58, “daytime“ p/s)
The “Peel Acres” session was, as it suggests, a session the band did for John Peel’s BBC Radio 1 show at his home. However, the decision to issue a number of these songs as B-sides did not quite beat the bootleggers, as the original radio broadcast featured the band sound checking their way through “Essex Dogs” (if my memory serves me correctly) which has never been released officially.
With the exception of the “limited edition” releases of “13” and “Think Tank”, none of the other Blur albums were originally released in any sort of special edition in the UK. There have been a number of 2-in-1 box set reissues over the years, the best of which is probably the French-only pairing of “Parklife” and “The Great Escape” (2xCD, Food 541101-2), the latter of which adds the “La Comedie” mix of “To The End” as a bonus track.
NOTABLE & ESSENTIAL PRE-2012 UK SINGLES
She’s So High (Edit)/I Know (7”, Food FOOD 26)
She’s So High (Edit)/I Know (Extended)/Down (CD, Food CDFOOD 26)
There’s No Other Way (Extended)/Inertia/Mr Briggs/I’m All Over (12”, Food 12FOOD 29)
There’s No Other Way (The Blur Remix)/Won’t Do It/Day Upon Day (Live) (Remix 12”, Food 12FOODX 29, unique p/s)
Bang (Extended)/Explain/Luminous/Uncle Love (12”, Food 12FOOD 31)
Bang/Explain/Luminous/Berserk (CD, Food CDFOOD 31)
Popscene/I’m Fine/Mace/Garden Central (12”, Food 12FOOD 37)
Popscene/Mace/Badgeman Brown (CD, Food CDFOOD 37)
The Wassailing Song (7”, Food BLUR 6)
For Tomorrow (Visit To Primrose Hill Extended)/Into Another/Hanging Over (12”, Food 12FOOD 40)
For Tomorrow (Visit To Primrose Hill Extended)/Peach/Bone Bag (CD1, Food CDFOODS 40)
For Tomorrow/When The Cows Come Home/Beachcoma/For Tomorrow (Acoustic) (CD2, Food CDFOOD 40)
Chemical World (Edit)/Maggie May (Red Vinyl 7”, Food FOOD 45)
Chemical World (Reworked)/Never Clever (Live)/Pressure On Julian (Live)/Come Together (Live) (CD1, Food CDFOODS 45)
Chemical World/Young & Lovely/Es Schmecht/My Ark (CD2, Food CDFOOD 45, some copies play shortened mix of A-side)
Sunday Sunday/Tell Me Tell Me (Yellow Vinyl 7”, Food FOODS 46)
Sunday Sunday/Long Legged/Mixed Up (12”, Food 12FOODS 46)
Sunday Sunday/Dizzy/Fried/Shimmer (CD1, Food CDFOOD 46)
Sunday Sunday/Daisy Bell/Let’s All Go Down The Strand (CD2, Food CDFOODX 46, unique p/s)
Girls & Boys (Edit)/Magpie/Anniversary Waltz (CD1, Food CDFOODS 47)
Girls & Boys/People In Europe/Peter Panic (CD2, Food CDFOOD 47)
To The End (Edit)/Threadneedle Street/Got Yer (CD1, Food CDFOODS 50)
To The End/Girls & Boys (Pet Shop Boys 7” Remix)/(Pet Shop Boys 12” Remix) (CD2, Food CDFOOD 50)
Parklife/Supa Shoppa/Theme From An Imaginary Film (CD1, Food CDFOODS 53)
Parklife/Beard/To The End (French Version) (CD2, Food CDFOOD 53, unique p/s)
End Of A Century/Red Necks/Alex’s Song (CD, Food CDFOOD 56)
Country House/One Born Every Minute/To The End (La Comedie) (CD1, Food CDFOOD 63)
Country House (Live)/Girls & Boys (Live)/Parklife (Live)/For Tomorrow (Live) (CD2, Food CDFOODS 63, unique p/s)
The Universal/Ultranol/No Monsters In Me/Entertain Me (The Live It! Remix) (CD1, Food CDFOOD 69)
The Universal (Live)/Mr Robinson’s Quango (Live)/It Could Be You (Live)/Stereotypes (Live) (CD2, Food CDFOOD 69, unique p/s)
Stereotypes/The Man Who Left Himself/Tame (Pink Vinyl 7”, Food FOOD 73, unique p/s)
Stereotypes/The Man Who Left Himself/Tame/Ludwig (CD, Food CDFOOD 73)
Charmless Man/The Horrors/A Song/St Louis (CD, Food CDFOOD 77)
Beetlebum/Woodpigeon Song (Red Vinyl 7”, Food FOOD 89)
Beetlebum/All Your Life/A Spell (For Money) (CD1, Food CDFOOD 89)
Beetlebum (LP Mix)/(Mario Caldato Jr Mix)/Woodpigeon Song/Dancehall (CD2, Food CDFOODS 89, unique p/s)
Song 2/Get Out Of Cities (Purple Vinyl 7”, Food FOOD 93)
Song 2/Get Out Of Cities/Polished Stone (CD1, Food CDFOODS 93)
Song 2/Bustin’ + Dronin’/Country Sad Ballad Man (Live) (CD2, Food CDFOOD 93, different sleeve to CD1)
On Your Own/Popscene (Live)/Song 2 (Live) (Clear Vinyl 7”, Food FOOD 98)
On Your Own/Popscene (Live)/Song 2 (Live)/On Your Own (Live) (CD1, Food CDFOOD 98)
On Your Own/Chinese Bombs (Live)/Movin’ On (Live)/MOR (Live) (CD2, Food CDFOODS 98, unique p/s)
MOR (Road Version)/Swallows In The Heatwave (Orange Vinyl 7”, Food FOOD 107)
MOR (Road Version)/Swallows In The Heatwave/Movin’ On (William Orbit Remix)/Beetlebum (Moby’s Minimal House Mix) (CD, Food CDFOOD 107)
Tender/All We Want (Blue Vinyl 7”, Food FOOD 117)
Tender/All We Want/Mellow Jam (CD1, Food CDFOODS 117, with insert)
Tender/French Song/Song 2 (LP Version)/(Video) (CD2, Food CDFOOD 117, unique p/s)
Coffee & TV (Radio Edit)/Trade Stylee/Metal Hip Slop/X Offender/Coyote (12”, Food 12FOOD 122)
No Distance Left To Run/Tender (Cornelius Remix)/So You (CD1, Food CDFOODS 123)
No Distance Left To Run/Battle (UNKLE Remix)/Beagle 2/No Distance Left To Run (Video) (CD2, Food CDFOOD 123, diff p/s)
Music Is My Radar/Black Book/Into Another (1992 BBC Session Version) (CD1, Food CDFOODS 135)
Music Is My Radar/7 Days (1992 BBC Session Version)/She’s So High (1990 BBC Session Version) (CD2, Food CDFOOD 135, red p/s)
Don’t Bomb When You’re The Bomb (7”, EMI THEBOMB 01)
Out Of Time/Money Makes Me Crazy (Marrakech Mix)/Out Of Time (Video #2) (CD, Parlophone CDR 6606)
Out Of Time (Video)/Money Makes Me Crazy (Marrakech Mix)/Tune 2/Out Of Time (Director’s Commentary) (DVD, Parlophone DVDR 6606, unique p/s)
Crazy Beat/The Outsider (Red Vinyl 7”, Parlophone R 6610)
Crazy Beat/Don’t Be/Crazy Beat (Video #2) (CD, Parlophone CDR 6610)
Crazy Beat (Video)/Don’t Be/The Outsider/Crazy Beat (Animatic Video Footage) (DVD, Parlophone DVDR 6610, unique p/s)
Good Song/Morricone (Red Vinyl 7”, Parlophone R 6619)
Good Song/Me White Noise (Alternative Version) (CD, Parlophone CDR 6619)
Good Song (Video)/Me White Noise (Alternative Version)/Morricone/Good Song (Animatic Video) (DVD, Parlophone DVDR 6619, unique p/s)
Fools Day (7”, Parlophone R 6811)
“Don’t Bomb”… and “Fools Day” are getting a second lease of life in the box set, which will also be including a variety of bonus discs and a Seymour-era 7”, “Superman”. Also being included is a DVD of the Wembley Arena 1999 “Singles” show, part of which has only ever been available - in audio form only - on the aforementioned limited edition 2-disc “Best Of” release. However, one or two songs - for some reason - are AWOL.
FAN CLUB SINGLES
Blur’s fan club launched in 1995, with the first issue of the quarterly “Blurb” magazine appearing towards the end of the year. The magazine usually had a “pop art” style cover, as opposed to any photos of the band. Rather strangely, for a band with such a London/Essex background, the club was actually based in Stoke On Trent.
The annual membership included a free gift - starting with Blurb 4, and continuing every fourth issue, the magazine would include a free CD Single. The first such single thus appeared in the fall of 1996, and was a demo of a new song called “Death Of A Party”. A proper version of the song would appear on the following years “Blur” album. 1997’s single went one better, as “I Love Her” would remain exclusive to this very release for sometime, and until the release of the forthcoming boxset, had not resurfaced anywhere else in any form. It was a similar story with 1998’s “Close”. Both these original demos are being included on the forthcoming “Leisure” reissue.
Although the CD’s continued to be issued every four issues, there were starting to be delays in getting the mags published on time, meaning that Blurb 16 turned up not in late 99, but early 2000.The freebie was an early version of “Sing” (retitled “Sing (To Me)”), taped back in the early days of the band when they were still known as Seymour.
Possibly sensing that the delays in getting the magazine out on time was worth recognising, and realising that an alternate version of an already available song might be seen as cheating a bit, the 2001 single was a 4 track affair, featuring material from the Camden B-sides gig. Similarly, the 2002 freebie featured alternate versions of old songs, and thus appeared as a 2-track single, in an attempt to provide some VFM. With the gap between each single slowly creeping over the 12-month time frame, the club did at one point give away a free Transcopic Records Sampler EP, the label to which Coxon was signed as a solo artist, as an apology.
The first fan club single to use the standard Blur logo, and thus “look” quite professional was the summer 2003 release, “Colours”, issued - as planned - with Blurb 28. With the band more or less on hold by 2004, Blurb 32 finally crept out in December 2005, with what would turn out to be the final FC single, “Some Glad Morning” - again issued with the Blur logo present and correct on the cover.
The forthcoming boxset includes some exclusive Rarities CD’s, and some of the “missing” fan club material, which is not on the ‘second disc’ of the reissued albums, is instead appearing on these discs, along with the infamous “Wassailing Song”. However, it seems that neither “Colours” nor anything on the B-Sides EP are being included in the box at all.
Death Of A Party (CD, Food DEATH 1)
I Love Her (CD, Food LOVE 001)
Close (CD, Food CLOSE 001)
Sing (To Me) (CD, Food SING 001)
B-Sides Gig EP: I’m Fine (Live)/Bone Bag (Live)/No Monsters In Me (Live)/Young & Lovely (Live) (CD, Food BSIDES 001)
Won’t Do It (Demo)/Come Together (Demo) (CD, Food WONT 001)
Colours (CD, Food COLOURS 01)
Some Glad Morning (CD, Food SGLAD 01)
The Observer (CD, Food OBS 02CD, 7 tracks and CD-Rom Element, with “The Observer” newspaper, slightly random trawl through the archives)
Exclusive 5 Track CD (CD, Food BLURCOVER 1, 5 tracks of which only one previously released, again free with “The Observer”)
Live 2009 (CD, Food UPBL 200901, 10 tracks, “Sunday Times” freebie. One song from each of the Hyde Park gigs, the rest exclusive versions taped throughout the reunion tour)
Some of the exclusive material from the “5 Track” release is the aforementioned “newspaper freebie” material appearing on the reissue of “Think Tank”, but two of the songs from said release are not being included.
As for the rest of the bonus material on the boxset, it varies. A rare acoustic version of “End Of A Century” is being used to close CD2 of the “Parklife” reissue, but is being included at the expense of the “Pet Shop Boys 7” mix of “Girls & Boys”. The studio mix of “Never Clever”, previously only available on a Food sampler, is appearing on one of the Rarities CD’s.
“Me White Noise”, previously included as a hidden track at the start of “Think Tank” is now placed at the end as a proper bonus track, but the original CD Rom material - I think - is missing. Ditto the enhanced section on the original limited release of “13”.
Some other material that could have been included has failed to make the cut. These include the performance of “Sunday Sunday” from the band’s famous 1992 Glastonbury Show, which turned up on the mail order only comp “In A Field Of Their Own” (CD, Greenpeace Glaston1 DCD). The slightly shambolic cover of “Oliver’s Army” appeared on “Peace Together” in 1993 (CD, Island CID 8018), the same year a 1993 BBC Session Version of “Advert” turned up on a Melody Maker cover mounted freebie called “MM 5 Alive Take Two” (Cassette, Melody Maker MMMC TWO).
Also on the missing list are the likes of the band’s cover of “Substitute” on “Who Covers Who” (CD, CM 006) and a live version of “Song 2” taped in Atlanta in 1997 on the US Mail order release “99X Live X IV Home” (CD, 99X WNXX 5). I would suggest you have a look at the excellent website ‘Veikko’s Blur Page’ (www.vblurpage.com), which goes into greater detail about the various rarities tucked away on these and other releases.